Blog Entry

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

Posted on: June 29, 2009 12:40 am
NEW YORK -- A few weeks back, Randy Johnson got his 300th win, and we all knew what it meant.

Sunday night, Mariano Rivera got his 500th save, and we really have no idea what it means.

We know Rivera has been a great closer, very likely the best closer there has ever been. We know he was a huge part of the Yankees' four World Series championships in five years from 1996-2000, very possibly the biggest part. We know that when the Yankees won their three straight World Series, from 1998-2000, Rivera went 18-for-18 in postseason save chances.

Jim Leyland has always told people that Rivera should have been considered the most valuable player for all of baseball for those five years, because no player on any team was more important, and no player on any team was harder to match or harder to replace.

Does 500 saves put Rivera on a different level? Not really, even though he's just the second pitcher ever with 500.

The only other pitcher with 500 saves is Trevor Hoffman, who has 571. It's hard to say who the next with 500 will be, because the next few active pitchers on the save list (Billy Wagner with 385, Troy Percival with 358, Jason Isringhausen with 293) are very unlikely to get there.

But we don't debate 500 the way we debated 300, or the way we debate 500 home runs or 3,000 hits. At this point, we're still not sure what 500 means.

We could tell from Sunday's celebration that it meant a fair amount to the Yankees, but a lot of that was because of what Rivera has meant to the Yankees.

We couldn't tell for sure how much it meant to Rivera himself. He even joked that his first career RBI, on a bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez, meant more.

"It's my first RBI," he said. "It's my 500th save."

For the record, Rivera has issued only three bases-loaded walks in his career, none since 2005.

For the record, Sunday's four-out save gave Rivera 110 saves of more than one inning (plus another 27 in the postseason).

"It had to be like that," he said. "It can't be an easy one pitch. It had to be four outs. But I've always said that it doesn't matter how you do it, the most important thing is that you win."

For Rivera, the most important thing isn't 500 saves. The most important thing is that he was the best at what he does.

He never finished higher than ninth in the most valuable player voting, but Leyland may well have been right. For a lot of years, he might have been the most valuable player in baseball.

And we do know what that means.
Category: MLB

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: February 20, 2012 9:18 pm

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 15, 2012 9:58 am

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 31, 2011 10:51 am

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 10:38 am

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

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Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: December 4, 2011 9:52 am

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 4, 2011 3:34 am

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

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Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 22, 2011 6:52 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Jun 19, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2009 2:20 pm

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

500 Saves and "we don't know what it means." I find that hard to believe, although most everyone that is in tune with baseball knows that Mariano is one of the best - if not the best- closer of all time. But the fact still remains he is only the second person to accomplish such a feat. That in itself makes 500 saves (also 500 wins after converting them) an unapproachable feat in today's game. To say Mo will be the last to make it here, we can't be so quick to assume but it very well may be (just as Johnson could be the last to 300 for awhile). One thing is for certain, there is no greater closer than Mariano Rivera in the history of baseball.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 7:58 am

The greatest pitch in baseball history

I think the best way to appreciate Mo isn't to look at the number of saves. It's to realize that he's been a dominant closer for well over a decade while using essentially one pitch - the cut fastball. Every time a hitter goes up against Rivera, they know what's coming on almost every pitch (although he does mix in the occasional four-seamer). No off-speed, no curves or sliders or screwballs or knucklers or anything else. Cut fastball. Only thing they had to guess at was the location.

To me, that makes those 500 saves all the more impressive. Most hitters, if they know what pitch is coming, are going to tee off on it. There shouldn't be any question that Mo is the greatest closer of all time. Even though relievers tend to have a tough time in Hall of Fame voting, it's hard to imagine he won't make it on the first ballot. The only question should be where does Rivera's cut fastball rank among the greatest pitches in baseball history?

Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 7:34 am

Even at 500, the number doesn't tell the story

Great story, Knobler.  By itself, the save has become one of those stats in baseball that is hard to figure as meaningful.  I mean, the number of guys who get 40 saves a year seems like half the number of teams in the league.

Mariano Rivera is different.  Mariano Rivera is special.  He has been to the Yankees the key to their World Series championships since he has been there.  What he did in that period of time is simply incredible.  Everyone marvelled at what Lidge did for the Phillies last season.  Mariano Rivera did that for about a 6-8 year period.

When he came in the game during that dominant time, the other team had virtually no chance.  In the playoffs and World Series, it was simply game over.  A well deserved milestone for sure, but is 500 saves alone a Hall of Fame number?  Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman  did not have Hall of Fame numbers, but they had what Mariano Rivera has had- that unbelieveable ability to come into a big game and dare the opposition to beat them.

Mariano Rivera, 500 saves.  Mariano Rivera, dominant post-season closer.  Mariano Rivera, future Hall of Fame. 

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